Indiana's James Baldwin, though largely self-educated, began teaching at 24. After several years he became superintendent of graded schools in Indiana, a post he held for 18 years. As well as editing school books, he started writing too. After the publication in 1882 of The Story of Siegfried, he went on to write more than 50 others. His influence was widely felt, because of all the school books in use in the United States, at one time over half had been written or edited by him. So far as I know, none of his books are in print today so we have decided to republish selections here, starting with his Old Greek Stories, which, though written for children, make good reading even today..
Romano: The Assembly of Gods around Jupiter's Throne
James Baldwin's Jupiter and his Mighty Company Old Greek Stories, the Myths Retold...
In astrology, we hear a lot about the planets, with strange, resonant names, like Jupiter, Saturn, Pluto, Venus and Chiron. These names resonate so deeply because they were the names of the ancient gods and goddesses of the Greeks and the Romans, thousands of years ago. The stories of the cosmic gods have shaped our culture, our literature, our art and even our religion. Perhaps no other stories have ever been told so often or listened to with so much pleasure as the classic tales of ancient Greece. They are a portion of our heritage from the distant past, and they form perhaps as important a part of our intellectual life as they did of that of the people among whom they originated. So we have decided to put the legends on line in a simple format—and this is the first of a series of Old Greek Stories by James Baldwin, which will be added to in weeks ahead. Now, read on!
A long time ago, when the world was much younger than it is now, people
told and believed a great many wonderful stories about wonderful things
which neither you nor I have ever seen. They often talked about a
certain Mighty Being called Jupiter, or Zeus, who was king of the sky
and the earth; and they said that he sat most of the time amid the
clouds on the top of a very high mountain where he could look down and
see everything that was going on in the earth beneath. He liked to ride
on the storm-clouds and hurl burning thunderbolts right and left among
the trees and rocks; and he was so very, very mighty that when he
nodded, the earth quaked, the mountains trembled and smoked, the sky
grew black, and the sun hid his face.
Jupiter had two brothers, both of them terrible fellows, but not nearly
so great as himself. The name of one of them was Neptune, or Poseidon,
and he was the king of the sea. He had a glittering, golden palace far
down in the deep sea-caves where the fishes live and the red coral
grows; and whenever he was angry the waves would rise mountain high, and
the storm-winds would howl fearfully, and the sea would try to break
over the land; and men called him the Shaker of the Earth.
The other brother of Jupiter was a sad pale-faced being, whose kingdom
was underneath the earth, where the sun never shone and where there was
darkness and weeping and sorrow all the time. His name was Pluto, or
Aidoneus, and his country was called the Lower World, or the Land of
Shadows, or Hades. Men said that whenever any one died, Pluto would send
his messenger, or Shadow Leader, to carry that one down into his
cheerless kingdom; and for that reason they never spoke well of him, but
thought of him only as the enemy of life.
A great number of other Mighty Beings lived with Jupiter amid the clouds
on the mountain top—so many that I can name a very few only. There
was Venus, the queen of love and beauty, who was fairer by far than any
woman that you or I have ever seen. There was Athena, or Minerva, the
queen of the air, who gave people wisdom and taught them how to do very
many useful things. There was Juno, the queen of earth and sky, who sat
at the right hand of Jupiter and gave him all kinds of advice. There was
Mars, the great warrior, whose delight was in the din of battle. There
was Mercury, the swift messenger, who had wings on his cap and shoes,
and who flew from place to place like the summer clouds when they are
driven before the wind. There was Vulcan, a skillful blacksmith, who had
his forge in a burning mountain and wrought many wonderful things of
iron and copper and gold. And besides these, there were many others
about whom you will learn by and by, and about whom men told strange and
They lived in glittering, golden mansions, high up among the clouds—so
high indeed that the eyes of men could never see them. But they could
look down and see what men were doing, and oftentimes they were said to
leave their lofty homes and wander unknown across the land or over the
And of all these Mighty Folk, Jupiter was by far the mightiest.
The Golden Age
Jupiter and his Mighty Folk had not always dwelt amid the clouds on the
mountain top. In times long past, a wonderful family called Titans had
lived there and had ruled over all the world. There were twelve of
them—six brothers and six sisters—and they said that their father was
the Sky and their mother the Earth. They had the form and looks of men
and women, but they were much larger and far more beautiful.
The name of the youngest of these Titans was Saturn; and yet he was so
very old that men often called him Father Time. He was the king of the
Titans, and so, of course, was the king of all the earth besides.
Men were never so happy as they were during Saturn’s reign. It was the
true Golden Age then. The springtime lasted all the year. The woods and
meadows were always full of blossoms, and the music of singing birds was
heard every day and every hour. It was summer and autumn, too, at the
same time. Apples and figs and oranges always hung ripe from the trees;
and there were purple grapes on the vines, and melons and berries of
every kind, which the people had but to pick and eat.
Of course nobody had to do any kind of work in that happy time. There
was no such thing as sickness or sorrow or old age. Men and women lived
for hundreds and hundreds of years and never became gray or wrinkled or
lame, but were always handsome and young. They had no need of houses,
for there were no cold days nor storms nor anything to make them afraid.
Nobody was poor, for everybody had the same precious things—the
sunlight, the pure air, the wholesome water of the springs, the grass
for a carpet, the blue sky for a roof, the fruits and flowers of the
woods and meadows. So, of course, no one was richer than another, and
there was no money, nor any locks or bolts; for everybody was
everybody’s friend, and no man wanted to get more of anything than his
When these happy people had lived long enough they fell asleep, and
their bodies were seen no more. They flitted away through the air, and
over the mountains, and across the sea, to a flowery land in the distant
west. And some men say that, even to this day, they are wandering
happily hither and thither about the earth, causing babies to smile in
their cradles, easing the burdens of the toilworn and sick, and blessing
What a pity it is that this Golden Age should have come to an end! But
it was Jupiter and his brothers who brought about the sad change.
It is hard to believe it, but men say that Jupiter was the son of the
old Titan king, Saturn, and that he was hardly a year old when he began
to plot how he might wage war against his father. As soon as he was
grown up, he persuaded his brothers, Neptune and Pluto, and his sisters,
Juno, Ceres, and Vesta, to join him; and they vowed that they would
drive the Titans from the earth.
The War of the Titans
Then followed a long and terrible war. But Jupiter had many mighty
helpers. A company of one-eyed monsters called Cyclopes were kept busy
all the time, forging thunderbolts in the fire of burning mountains.
Three other monsters, each with a hundred hands, were called in to throw
rocks and trees against the stronghold of the Titans; and Jupiter
himself hurled his sharp lightning darts so thick and fast that the
woods were set on fire and the water in the rivers boiled with the heat.
Of course, good, quiet old Saturn and his brothers and sisters could
not hold out always against such foes as these. At the end of ten years
they had to give up and beg for peace. They were bound in chains of the
hardest rock and thrown into a prison in the Lower Worlds; and the
Cyclopes and the hundred-handed monsters were sent there to be their
jailers and to keep guard over them forever.
Then men began to grow dissatisfied with their lot. Some wanted to be
rich and own all the good things in the world. Some wanted to be kings
and rule over the others. Some who were strong wanted to make slaves of
those who were weak. Some broke down the fruit trees in the woods, lest
others should eat of the fruit. Some, for mere sport, hunted the timid
animals which had always been their friends. Some even killed these poor
creatures and ate their flesh for food.
At last, instead of everybody being everybody’s friend, everybody was
So, in all the world, instead of peace, there was war; instead of
plenty, there was starvation; instead of innocence, there was crime; and
instead of happiness, there was misery.
And that was the way in which Jupiter made himself so mighty; and that
was the way in which the Golden Age came to an end.